8 Fall Debut Novels That Evoke the Thrill of New Discoveries

Jana Li
October 11 2022
Share 8 Fall Debut Novels That Evoke the Thrill of New Discoveries

Now that autumn is in full swing, it’s time to take advantage of everything the season has to offer. That means cozy blankets, pumpkin-flavored pastries, and, of course, books! But before you start adding your usual authors and traditional genres to your TBR list, how about journeying into new, fresh voices coming out this fall? I love whenever I can discover an author at the very start of their fiction career—and when I can then be one of the first people raving about them until everyone knows their name. So, I’m proud to share these eight authors debuting fiction this fall that should already be on your must-read list!

The Cloisters
by Katy Hays

If you find yourself drawn to the dark-academia aesthetic this fall, Katy Hays’s THE CLOISTERS captures that essence perfectly through the story of Ann Stilwell, a new intern at The Cloisters, a Gothic museum with a deadly plant garden. As she studies medieval art, fortune telling, and tarot card reading, Ann discovers there might be some truth to the occult magic she’s surrounded by. Can the future actually be predicted? Or is Ann racing to find answers that simply do not exist?

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The Cloisters
Katy Hays

The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel following a circle of researchers as they uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.

When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.

Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.

A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Before You Knew My Name
by Jacqueline Bublitz

Death is all around in Jacqueline Bublitz’s BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME, which explores the true gravity of human life and the exceptional loss felt when someone’s future is taken away through violence. Alice Lee, who was once eighteen and new to New York City, is now merely a dead body found by Ruby Jones, a woman struggling with her own identity and purpose. Ruby recognizes that she could have easily been in Alice’s shoes—a young, anonymous Jane Doe, mysteriously and brutally murdered for seemingly no reason—and while this realization haunts her to no end, it also pushes her to bring justice to Alice and uncover who the killer is.

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Before You Knew My Name
Jacqueline Bublitz

Winner of Crime Debut and Readers’ Choice Awards—Sisters in Crime

“A brave and timely novel.” —Clare Mackintosh, internationally bestselling author of Hostage

This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.

When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.

Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.

Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?

A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?

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The Fortunes of Jaded Women
by Carolyn Huynh

Not only are the three Dương sisters cursed, but their entire family lineage suffers from the same witchy prophecy because of their ancestor Oanh choosing to leave her marriage for true love: none of Oanh’s descendants shall find love nor bear sons. Generations of these Vietnamese women have suffered from explosive disagreements, estrangement, and tumultuous love lives, but THE FORTUNE OF JADED WOMEN follows a potential turn of luck for the family: a psychic has predicted a marriage, a death, and the birth of a son, all within the course of one year. With this divination reuniting generations of Dươngs, Mai Nguyễn and her sisters, Minh Phạm and Khuyến Lam, finally have hope to believe in.

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The Fortunes of Jaded Women
Carolyn Huynh

For fans of Jonathan Tropper, KJ Dell’Antonia, and Kevin Kwan, this “sharp, smart, and gloriously extra” (Nancy Jooyoun Kim, The Last Story of Mina Lee) debut follows a family of estranged Vietnamese women—cursed to never know love or happiness—as they reunite when a psychic makes a startling prediction.

Everyone in Orange County’s Little Saigon knew that the Duong sisters were cursed.

It started with their ancestor, Oanh, who dared to leave her marriage for true love—so a fearsome Vietnamese witch cursed Oanh and her descendants so that they would never find love or happiness, and the Duong women would give birth to daughters, never sons.​

Oanh’s current descendant Mai Nguyen knows this curse well. She’s divorced, and after an explosive disagreement a decade ago, she’s estranged from her younger sisters, Minh Pham (the middle and the mediator) and Khuyen Lam (the youngest who swears she just runs humble coffee shops and nail salons, not Little Saigon’s underground). Though Mai’s three adult daughters, Priscilla, Thuy, and Thao, are successful in their careers (one of them is John Cho’s dermatologist!), the same can’t be said for their love lives. Mai is convinced they might drive her to an early grave.

Desperate for guidance, she consults Auntie Hua, her trusted psychic in Hawaii, who delivers an unexpected prediction: this year, her family will witness a marriage, a funeral, and the birth of a son. This prophecy will reunite estranged mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins—for better or for worse.

A multi-narrative novel brimming with levity and candor, The Fortunes of Jaded Women is about mourning, meddling, celebrating, and healing together as a family. It shows how Vietnamese women emerge victorious, even if the world is against them.

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White Horse
by Erika T. Wurth

Though Kari loves all things mysterious and horror, she never desired her current reality: becoming crippled by visions of her dead mother after discovering a bracelet that’s haunted by her spirit. She sets off on a mission to discover what truly happened to her mother, but confronting dysfunctional relationships, suppressed memories, and unfulfilled desires is no easy task. Part murder mystery, part ghost story, WHITE HORSE by Erika T. Wurth explores the nuances of tragedy through the eyes of an Indigenous woman with an immense amount of baggage to overcome.

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White Horse
Erika T. Wurth

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A History of Fear
by Luke Dumas

The Devil’s Advocate isn’t just a debate technique but also a man by the name Grayson Hale—Scotland’s most infamous killer. His claim to fame? Murdering his classmate Liam Stewart simply because he was following orders given by the Devil himself. Luke Dumas’s novel puts a twist on the typical murder story by detailing an investigative analysis of the Devil’s Advocate’s psychological spiral—all detailed in a handwritten manuscript by Hale found following his suicide. With insight into Hale’s childhood abuse and repression, much of which was caused by religious extremity, A HISTORY OF FEAR is an intriguing commentary on the human psyche and what actually makes a killer.

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A History of Fear
Luke Dumas

“Readers, beware: this novel is not safe and will have you questioning what’s real for many sleepless nights to come.” —Clay McLeod Chapman, author of The Remaking

“A disorienting, creepy, paranoia-inducing reimagining of the devil-made-me-do-it tale” (Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World) following the harrowing downfall of a tortured graduate student arrested for murder.

The Devil is in Scotland.

Grayson Hale, the most infamous murderer in Scotland, is better known by a different name: the Devil’s Advocate. The twenty-five-year-old American grad student rose to instant notoriety when he confessed to the slaughter of his classmate Liam Stewart, claiming the Devil made him do it.

When Hale is found hanged in his prison cell, officers uncover a handwritten manuscript that promises to answer the question that’s haunted the nation for years: was Hale a lunatic, or had he been telling the truth all along?

Unnervingly, Hale doesn’t fit the bill of a killer. The first-person narrative that centers this novel reveals an acerbic young atheist, newly enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to carry on the legacy of his recently deceased father. In need of cash, he takes a job ghostwriting a mysterious book for a dark stranger, but has misgivings when the project begins to reawaken his satanophobia, a rare condition that causes him to live in terror that the Devil is after him. As he struggles to disentangle fact from fear, Grayson’s world is turned upside-down after events force him to confront his growing suspicion that he’s working for the one he has feared all this time—and that the book is only the beginning of their partnership.​​

A History of Fear is a propulsive foray into the darkness of the human psyche, marrying dread-inducing atmosphere and heart-palpitating storytelling.

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Jackal
by Erin E. Adams

When Liz Rocher was in high school, Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in her predominantly white town, was found dead in the woods, brutally murdered. Now, years later, Liz is reluctantly going home for her best friend’s wedding, but when the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing in the woods in an eerily similar way to Keisha, Liz is afraid it’s not a coincidence. Erin E. Adams’s JACKAL follows Liz’s horrifying reality when she discovers that the pattern of Black girls disappearing in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has been carrying on for decades longer than she’d imagined.

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Jackal
Erin E. Adams

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The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream
by Jeannie Zusy

Providing for someone is difficult, but for Maggie Frederick, who has now been tasked with caring for Ginny, her older sister with intellectual disabilities, alongside her normal responsibilities of single-parenting two young boys, the job feels nearly impossible. Finding a balance between supporting her sister while also allowing Ginny her independence is challenging. Dealing with a soon-to-be ex-husband who hasn’t accepted that the relationship is over is challenging. Even just simply finding time to have fun and potentially even find a new love is challenging. But, as Jeannie Zusy’s title implies, the Frederick sisters are in fact living the dream, as they learn to navigate life while taking care of each other.

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The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream
Jeannie Zusy

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Early Morning Riser with a dash of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this very funny, occasionally romantic, and surprisingly moving novel about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.

Every family has its fault lines, and when Maggie gets a call from the ER in Maryland where her older sister lives, the cracks start to appear. Ginny, her sugar-loving and diabetic older sister with intellectual disabilities, has overdosed on strawberry Jell-O.

Maggie knows Ginny really can’t live on her own, so she brings her sister and her occasionally vicious dog to live near her in upstate New York. Their other sister, Betsy, is against the idea but as a professional surfer, she is conveniently thousands of miles away.

Thus, Maggie’s life as a caretaker begins. It will take all of her dark humor and patience, already spread thin after a separation, raising two boys, freelancing, and starting a dating life, to deal with Ginny’s diapers, sugar addiction, porn habit, and refusal to cooperate. Add two devoted but feuding immigrant aides and a soon-to-be ex-husband who just won’t go away, and you’ve got a story that will leave you laughing through your tears as you wonder who is actually taking care of whom.

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The Marsh Queen
by Virginia Hartman

Loni Mae Murrow’s world is thrown into chaos when she must leave her life as a nature artist at the Smithsonian to return home and care for her tumultuous family, namely a highly critical but frail mother who refuses professional caregiving, and a younger brother who has too much on his plate when it comes to his wife, young children, and job. Back in the marshes of Florida, though, Loni uncovers an unsolved mystery—what truly happened surrounding the death of her father? Originally presumed to be a suicide, new evidence suggests that might not really be the case. Virginia Hartman’s THE MARSH QUEEN will transport you into the vivid wetlands of the South while exploring themes of familial duty, loss and abandonment, and the power of honesty.

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The Marsh Queen
Virginia Hartman

For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing, this “marvelous debut” (Alice McDermott, National Book Award–winning author of The Ninth Hour) follows a Washington, DC, artist as she faces her past and the secrets held in the waters of Florida’s lush swamps and wetlands.

Loni Murrow is an accomplished bird artist at the Smithsonian who loves her job. But when she receives a call from her younger brother summoning her back home to help their obstinate mother recover after an accident, Loni’s neat, contained life in Washington, DC, is thrown into chaos, and she finds herself exactly where she does not want to be.

Going through her mother’s things, Loni uncovers scraps and snippets of a time in her life she would prefer to forget—a childhood marked by her father Boyd’s death by drowning and her mother Ruth’s persistent bad mood. When Loni comes across a single, cryptic note from a stranger—“There are some things I have to tell you about Boyd’s death”— she begins a dangerous quest to discover the truth, all the while struggling to reconnect with her mother and reconcile with her brother and his wife, who seem to thwart her at every turn. To make matters worse, she meets a man in Florida whose attractive simple charm threatens everything she’s worked toward.

Pulled between worlds—her professional accomplishments in Washington, and the small town of her childhood—Loni must decide whether to delve beneath the surface into murky half-truths and either avenge the past or bury it, once and for all.

The Marsh Queen explores what it means to be a daughter and how we protect the ones we love. Suzanne Feldman, author of Sisters of the Great War, writes that “fans of Delia Owens and Lauren Groff will find this a wonderful and absorbing read.”

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Photo credit: iStock / Vimvertigo

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